2/3 of cancers are due to “bad luck”… so what?

The beginning of the year was marked by a very controversial paper by Bert Vogelstein and Cristian Tomasetti.
In summary, the scientists put forth a mathematical analysis of the genesis of cancer that confirms that 2/3 of cancers are due to random errors during the DNA replication. In their words and that of many journalists this is due to “Bad Luck”.

I am certainly not an expert of the field but the study didn’t really put forward anything new really. It further confirmed that while we cannot yet understand why 2/3 of cancers happen (the fact we call them “random mutations” to me it simply means we have not yet understood why they happen) the remaining 1/3 of cancers is affected by lifestyle choices.

I believe that most people are smart enough to filter the information and separate the (scientifically proven) facts from the unexplainable/nice story/BS.

The headlines of most articles created after the paper was published, simply referred to the “bad luck” component of the study. The journalists and scientists authors of the articles are very smart people, so of course they did mention the 1/3 preventable cancers and the importance of prevention – but that wasn’t the focus. And that really pissed me off!

What’s the point on highlighting and putting so much effort and weight behind the fact we don’t yet know what causes 2/3 of cancers? How should the casual reader feel about it?
Try to tell a wife, a husband, a parent, a friend, a daughter, a son … that the people they love the most are 66% likely to have cancer because of “bad luck”.
Or try to tell them that they have 33% chances of living a cancer-free life because of the lifestyle choices they make.

Which one would make the difference?

In my opinion, a realistic but positive and actionable mindset is the key to be in charge of our existence – not just when talking about cancer, but in every aspect of our lives.

(A good book on this argument is “Mindset: The new psychology of success” by Carol Dweck)

There are many articles out there on the subject, so everyone can take their pick on which side of the fence they want to stay.
This one from World Cancer Research Fund resinated well with me

On a positive note, it’s great to see that World Cancer Day 2015 continues to promote prevention, early detection and healthy life style choices as sustainable ways to empower people against the disease.
The goal is clear and simple: governments, schools and workplaces to make healthy choices the default choice and make individuals, families and policy makers aware that with the right strategies, around a third of cancers can be prevented through diet, physical activity and being a healthy weight.
Cancer is not beyond us, people!

Luca

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